The Gipper’s Ghost 

Thursday, Dec 15 2005
Illustration by Jeffrey VallanceSince the death of Ronald Reagan, various ghostly phenomena have been reported up at the Reagan Ranch in the hills above Santa Barbara. Rancho del Cielo (cielo means “heaven” in Spanish) was Reagan’s favorite place in the world. The hacienda-style estate, neighboring Michael Jackson’s blighted Neverland, is preserved in the exact condition it was in when the Reagans lived there, as if they just stepped out and will return at any moment. Even Reagan’s favorite jellybean jar is still there, complete with a few uneaten beans. Reagan kept several horses at the ranch stable. He made sure that the Secret Service horses ate from separate hay troughs, because he did not want American taxpayers paying for his own horses’ feed. On the rugged trails at the ranch, Reagan rode a white Arabian stallion named El Alamein (it means “two flags”) given to him by José López Portillo, then-President of Mexico. A white horse is symbolic of conquest on the battlefield; likewise, Christ returns on a white horse. Visitors to the ranch have reported seeing a peculiar figure in a cowboy hat and jean jacket, riding a galloping horse near the perimeter of the rugged 688-acre property. When guests ask at the office about the historical reenactment, the baffled staffers say, “There is no one at the ranch matching that description.” Some mornings, when the 1,500-square-foot ranch house is unlocked, Reagan’s leather Bible (given to the president by the cowboy chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) is said to be found next to his bed, opened to Chapter 6 of Revelations: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: And his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Could the Gipper be sending a message from beyond the grave — warning us that the apocalypse is drawing nigh? Reagan’s preferred form of relaxation was hard physical outdoor labor — building fences, clearing trails, removing overgrown bush, trimming trees and chopping wood. Since the president’s death, there have been reports that a former ranch manager heard, in the early morning, the sound of an ax chopping wood. At daybreak, he occasionally found a neat pile of newly split logs (although the ranch’s two fireplaces are no longer in use). “I have not seen any of that,” says current ranch manager Will Bernhardt. “I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I’ve not seen it.” Ranch spokespersons also deny any apparitions, noting that the Bible is normally open to Chronicles. But they don’t deny that Reagan’s presence remains. “The place still feels like he could come back any minute,” says one. A Reagan Ranch Center public-relations pamphlet states, “Rancho del Cielo conveys the true spirit of Reagan. The very essence of his character is found here at the ranch.” Reagan himself often called the ranch “heaven itself.” Could it be that the ghost of Reagan has been drawn back to the place he considered the nearest thing to paradise on Earth?

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